TheSession: my beer transition, or one man's quest for a decent drink in Southampton

The year was twenty-nought-six. I'd spent the last ten months drinking in some of the grottiest student establishments known to man. Although I had sampled the delights of real ale I was yet to be fully converted from the ease of drinking provided by Worthington creamflow and other related nitrogenated horrors. 

Summer came and we moved wholesale from our halls of residence (replete with handy subterranean passageway to the nearest hall of libations) and  in to a grotty 4-up 2-down terraced house we'd call home for the next two years. I opted to remain in Southampton over the summer to "get my money's worth" given we had to pay rent from July (ever the stingy bastard).

Finding myself at a loss for things to do I took it upon myself to explore the immediate environs. I had previously been in the Gordon Arms, where a shot of lurid flavoured gunk was usually the order of the day (the ales not being up to much) but I had never been in its opposite neighbour The Richmond Inn. This was a Greene King establishment but to me somewhere completely different to other pubs I'd thus far had the (mis)fortune to frequent.

For a start the average age of the assembled throng was a good forty years my senior. This was well and truly a pub for the locals and myself in a students hoody stuck out like a sore thumb. The well coiffured gentleman barman proffered me a glass of beer, which I accepted (Brains Reverend James) if I recall correctly and took to a comfortable bench to drink in my surroundings.

A local took it upon himself to strike up a conversation with me. We discussed many things that day but eventually the conversation shifted on to the topic of decent beer and the location whereof. It was then that I was to make the discovery that would throw me headlong into the world of beer (though of course I didn't know it at the time).

I was asked if I had ever heard tell of the Guide Dog, with  a sharp intake of breath echoing around the pub as if a hallowed secret was about to be divulged to one not worthy. I offered that I did not and the friendly old codger kindly described its whereabouts. With that I thanked him an bade him farewell, finished my pint and went about my merry way.

It was a good few weeks later that I decided to act upon his advice. Bouncing down the hill with a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye I veer off to the right far too early and discover somewhere called the Honest Lawyer which I certainly wasn't about to venture into but finally stumble upon my final destination...

...Only to do a double take upon entering, finding myself (it appeared) in someone's living room. But yes, there was the name "the Guide Dog" over the door and a bar against one side of the room, which was filled with Saints supporters (being as this was a Tuesday eve and a home game to boot). I ordered a pint of something familiar (Fullers ESB perhaps) and the rest as they say is history.

Over the following years it became my local, helped no end by my the fact that my place of employ happened to be just around the corner. I fell in with the wrong crowd (a bunch of miscreants calling themselves CAMRA) and beer became an integral part of my life.

Years later when I return to whence I once abided I like to retrace my steps to that ale Mecca.The Dolphin would come first, South West Arms would usually follow, then the Junction & Guide Dog...zzzzzzzzzz

This post was brought to you courtesy of The Session, hosted this month by yours truly. For more apocryphal or otherwise beery tales look out for my Session round up post tomorrow!

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